Bengaluru: External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday emphasised the need to figure out the “battle of narratives that are being played out ahead of elections” and call them out.
“On the freedom of the press, we have been ranked lower than Afghanistan. What we have seen is steadily building up for the last 10 years. I expect this to reach a crescendo in the first six months of this year. You don’t need to guess why. As elections come closer, if it looks like the narrative is not going the way they wanted, they will start attacking the process. We have seen that before… they will attack the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, even the common sense of voters,” Jaishankar said.
He made the remarks while speaking during a discussion on his book ‘Why Bharat Matters’ with BJP MP Tejasavi Surya in Bengaluru.
Talking about how the other countries would look at the inauguration of the Ram temple on January 22, Jaishankar said that people across the world will be looking forward to the inauguration. “As you start moving eastwards, you can see a very strong cultural influence. The reference I make is Korea. In Korea, there is a belief that their Royalty actually had a connection with Ayodhya. In the last few years, we have seen the revival of Ayodhya. We have actually had Korean participation in cultural programmes. They take it as a matter of pride. On January 22, a lot of people across the world will be looking what’s happening.”
Jaishankar pointed out that taking the Kashmir issue to the United Nations was a “fundamental error”. “If we had a good sense of international politics at that stage, we would not have taken that call. We were taken for a ride by a set of countries that had a geo-political agenda and used Kashmir as an issue of vulnerability. It took decades to take a call on Article 370 and close the window of vulnerability which we were foolish to open in the 1940s.”
“We need to be hard-headed and clear on what our interests are. If India wants to stand up, be a little more considerate, and manage tactfully, we should do it. I would not take a call which is based on whether I am on the side of that country or a bloc. I would take a call at the end of the day on whether it suits my country,” he said.
Jaishankar further said: “When I saw the Prime Minister of India getting into Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), you know what a powerful statement it is to our own defence people, to our own creativity and our own technologists? He conveyed that I have confidence in you and I am flying up there in the aircraft that you have produced. The legitimate expectations of people have to be responded to.”
Speaking about choosing the word ‘Bharat’ this time for his book, unlike his previous book which was titled ‘The India Way’, Jaishankar said: “It is because of what has happened to us in the last five years. We have become much more self-confident, self-aware and impactful in the world. A large part of the world appreciates how we sailed through Covid, how we handled the complex diplomatically challenging G20 presidency and the success of Chandrayaan. The idea of India as an exemplar is something which the younger generation needs to appreciate.”
Jaishankar also said that he’ll take up the matter of opening the US Consulate in Bengaluru in his next meeting with the US Ambassador. “I am glad that we could make a decision to open a US Consulate in Bengaluru during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the USA last year. Bengaluru is a global city and it’s natural that there should be a US Consulate here. I will go and remind Eric Garcetti (US Ambassador to India) that he needs to set it up fast.”